While fans of Toronto FC lament their poor start to the season, they can take solace from the fact that their well-documented defensive woes are not uncommon in Major League Soccer.
Watch any MLS game and there is a good chance you will see goal scoring chances appear where little danger is evident. A decent ball into the box, and there is a good chance it will land at the feet of a striker.
Case in point – Real Salt Lake’s opening goal this weekend against the Colorado Rapids.
Will Johnson had the ball in a wide position, and played it back to Tony Beltran. The Real Salt Lake striker, Alvaro Saborio (the eventual goalscorer), was being well-marked by the Rapids’ defenders in the box at the time.
When Beltran picked up the ball, the Colorado defenders pushed up, but were all caught ball watching. Saborio came back into an onside position, but wasn’t picked up by Marvell Wynne, the right side central defender.
Saborio took up a good position just inside the Colorado fullback, Kosuke Kimura.
When Beltran delivered the ball into the box, it floated over the head of Wynne, who still had no idea where Saborio was.
Once Saborio received the ball on his chest, he still had to control and finish – which he did very nicely to open the scoring.
From start to finish, the play lasted 8 seconds. It wasn’t a particularly difficult ball to defend, but the lack of awareness and communication between the Colorado defenders was alarming. They simply cannot allow Saborio so much freedom inside the box, especially when RSL were in possession and looking to deliver.
The ball in from Beltran was a good one, but should be dealt with easily through correct positioning by the central defenders, and better communication from the fullback.
See the ball, see the man. Ball-side, goal-side. Two basic defensive principles being neglected far too often.